Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to Italian Caritas chapters whom he met with this morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall :
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I receive you at the end of the works of your National Congress and I greet you all affectionately. I greet cordially Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, President of Italian Caritas, and I thank him for the words he addressed to me on behalf of you all. Your meeting takes place 45 years after the birth of this ecclesial organization, which Blessed Paul VI intensely desired, and he wanted it to have a pastoral and educational character. In 1972, on the occasion of the first national meeting with Caritas, he entrusted this mandate to it: To sensitize the local Churches and individual faithful to the meaning and duty of charity in ways that are consonant with the needs and the times” (Insegnamenti X, , 989). Today, with renewed fidelity to the Gospel and to the mandate received, you go forward on new paths of encounter and verification to deepen and orientate to the best what you have undertaken and developed up to now.
Your educational mission, which is always geared to communion in the Church and to a service with wide horizons, calls you to the commitment of a concrete love for every human being, with a preferential option for the poor, in whom Jesus Himself asks you for help and closeness (cf. Matthew 25:35-40). A love that is expressed through gestures and signs, which represent “an innate form to the pedagogical function of Caritas at every level,” as my Predecessor Benedict XVI stressed, who then added: “I hope you will be able to cultivate to the best the quality of the works that you were able to invent. Render them, so to speak, “eloquent,” being concerned above all with the interior motivation that animates them, and with the quality of the testimony that emanates from them. They are works born of the faith. They are works of the Church, expression of the attention to the one in greatest need. They are pedagogical actions because they help the poorest to grow in their dignity, the Christian communities to walk following Christ, the civil society to assume consciously it obligations” (Address to the Italian Caritas in 2011: Insegnamenti VII, 2, , 776).
In face of the challenges and the contradictions of our time, Caritas has the difficult but fundamental task to so act that the charitable service becomes the commitment of every one of us, namely, that the entire Christian community become the subject of charity. See, therefore, the main objective of your being and of your acting: to be stimulus and spirit so that the whole community grows in charity and is able to find ever new ways to be close to the poorest, able to read and address the situations that oppress millions of brothers – in Italy, in Europe, in the world. Particularly important, in this connection, is the role of promotion and formation that Caritas has in relations with the diverse expressions of volunteer work. Volunteer work that in turn is called to invest time, resources and the ability to involve the entire community in the commitments of solidarity that go forward. As your task of stimulus is also essential in dealing with the civil institutions and for adequate legislation, in favor of the common good and the protection of the weakest members; a commitment that is concretized in the constant offer of occasions and instruments for an adequate and constructive knowledge of the situations.
In face of the global challenges that sow fear, iniquity, financial speculations – also on food –, environmental degradation and wars, it is necessary, along with daily work on the territory, to carry forward the commitment to educate to respectful and fraternal encounter between cultures and civilizations, and to the care of Creation for an “integral ecology.” May Italian Caritas be faithful also in this to its statutory mandate. I encourage you not to tire to promote, with tenacious and patient perseverance, communities that have a passion for dialogue, to live conflicts in an evangelical way, without denying them but making them occasions of growth, of reconciliation: this is the peace that Christ has won for us and that we are sent to bring. May your boast always be the will to go back again to the causes of the poverties, to try to remove them: the effort to prevent marginalization; to affect the mechanisms that generate injustice; to work against every structure of sin. For this purpose, it is a question of educating individuals and groups to styles of life that are aware, so that all truly feel themselves responsible for all. And this, beginning with the parishes: it is the precious and capillary endeavour of the parochial Caritas, which must be continued to spread and multiply on the territory.
I want to encourage you also to continue in your commitment and closeness in your relations with immigrant persons. The phenomenon of the migrations, which today presents critical aspects that need to be managed with organic and farsighted policies, also remains always a richness and a resource, under several points of view. Therefore, your work is precious, which, beside the solidaristic approach, tends to privilege choices that favour increasingly the integration between foreign populations and Italian citizens, offering basic workers cultural and professional instruments adapted to the complexity of the phenomenon and to its peculiarities.
The testimony of charity becomes authentic and credible when it commits all moments and relations of life, but its cradle and its home is the family, the domestic Church. The family is constitutionally “Caritas” because God Himself made it so: the spirit of the family and of its mission is love, that merciful love that – as I reminded in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia – is able to accompany, discern and become part of situations of fragility. The most complete responses to many hardships can be offered in fact by those families that, overcoming the temptation of “short” and episodic solidarity, sometimes also necessary, choose to collaborate among themselves and with all the other solidaristic services of the territory, offering the resources of their own daily availability. And how many beautiful examples of this we have in our communities!
With full confidence in the presence of the Risen Christ and with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit, you will be able to go forward without fear and discover ever new prospects in your pastoral commitment, reinforce styles and motivations, and thus respond ever better to the Lord who comes to meet us in the faces and the stories of our neediest sisters and brothers. He is at the door of our heart, of our communities, and waits for someone to answer his discreet and insistent “knocking”: He awaits charity, that is, the Lord’s merciful “caress” through the “hand” of His Church, a caress that expresses the tenderness and closeness of the Father. In today’s complex and interconnected world, may your mercy be attentive and informed, concrete and competent, capable of analyses, researches, studies and reflections; personal but also communitarian, credible by dint of a coherence that is evangelical testimony and, at the same time, organized and formed, to furnish services that are ever more precise and targeted; responsible, coordinated, capable of alliances and innovations; delicate and welcoming, full of significant relations, open to all, solicitous in inviting the little ones and the poor of the world to take an active part in the community, which has its culminating moment in the Sunday Eucharist. Because the poor are the strong proposal that God makes to our Church, so that she grows in love and in fidelity, and so the communion with Christ in the Mass finds coherent expressions in the encounter with Jesus Himself present in the littlest brothers. So may be your, our caress, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of Blessed Paul VI. I bless you and accompany you with my prayer. And I recommend to you also to pray for me! Thank you.[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]